Friday, May 18, 2018

Quick Kid Updates

A crazy fun week - in a nutshell...

Jimmy had his final band concert and they sounded awesome!  The tradition is to play the wrong last note in the last song, however... their band instructor sort of lost his sh-t last week when the 11th grade band did that Jimmys concert, only the bass horn section did it.  You can still hear it and Jimmy thinks it hysterical.

Listen here

Billy and Tracy road tripped to Kansas City last weekend for a TKD tournament (Lees Summit to be exact), ate some good BBQ and Billy kicked ass!  He has gotten so good - its so fun to see and his coach is seriously impressed. Note the sizes of the kids that he's sparring against and how well he does! He took 2nd in sparring, 1st in weapons and 3rd in pomsea.

Sparring clip  Billy is in Blue and there are 18 small clips of him sparring on youtube (loudamericans)

Kay had her 1st dance, Semi.  She went with a bunch of girls and looked fantastic. Of course we werent allowed to come over to take photos and we are "on call" to be picked up at the ready.  Hope she has fun!!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Team USA- Football Cam

The football camp season has begun and Jimmy has been invited to try out for Team USA.

This is a pretty cool organization, very organized, well run and full of information for young kids thinking about trying to play college football. Unlike some other camps we have been at this one does not focus on the NFL but focuses on division 2 and division 3 schools.
It was a two day camp and Jimmy had a blast.

Day 1: We arrived signed in and sat through a 45 minute presentation about the camp, the coaches and what to expect. Jimmy is currently playing line backer so after the meeting all the athlete's took the field to warm up and then break out into position groups. There would be a series of 4 3 hour practice sessions through out the c amp. The first one was basically getting the players warmed up and into the right groups. They ran a few drills then we broke for an hour lunch.

Jimmy was pretty pumped over lunch talking about how it was going and what he was learning, having never really been in the linebacker roll he was excited to get the training. The afternoon was more of the same with some one on one drills with he linebackers going against the running backs. The session ended at 7:00 and Jimmy was pretty beat. He was of course excited and had several new theories about football camps, college coaches and the whole process. He said that there are three things you need to do to impress the coaches:
1. Look the part, you need a cut off shirt some facial hair and look like a football player.
2. You have to know what you are doing if you stumble over a drill, look lost and are not fluid in your play the coaches will know your not serious.
3. Have a good attitude and be aggressive .
Kind of sounds like Jimmy doe want it!

Day 2: We started the day at 9:00 with and hour session of the Ins and outs of being a college recruit. It was a very informative meeting and Tom came away with a long too do list,, first thing is to get Jimmy registered with the NCAA, you can't play college football or get recruited with the right forms, and the NCAA is the first one you need.
Jimmy headed back onto the field for the next 3 hour session. The groups again broke off into position groups, ,ran a bunch of drills and then did the 40 yard dash test. The after lunch it was all 7 on 7 type drills no tackling but there was differently contact, and Jimmy let his presence  be known!!When it was all done  and said

, Jimmy was invited by two colleges, Hamline University and Presentation College to come and attend their summer camps. The Hamline's Coach gave Jimmy a hand written assessment and ask that he keep in touch. Jimmy's take away from the camp was,that he is physically ready and is very much where he needs to be. On the recruiting side he said that he spent all of his time with two coaches, and he impressed both of them to the point of being invited to their camps and being asked to keep in touch, overall a pretty good start to the season.
Next up The University of Minnesota and the PJ Fleck camp....

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Music in the park-Orchestra Trip to Chicago

Billy and the rest of the 7-9th grade Orchestra headed down to Chicago for three days of sightseeing and an Orchestra Festival.

There were three bus loads of kids 14 chaperones and a lot of junk food. This was the 24th Orchestra trip and I believe the 8th trip to Chicago. The bus ride down was pretty easy compared to last years 19 hour trip to Branson! We arrived late Wednesday night unloaded the buses and got  the kids into rooms and lights out at 10:30.

Thursday morning there was a three hour rehearsal for one hour per grade at the hotel. Then we headed off to Wood-field Mall for some shopping and lunch.  Next up was the Blue Man Group. It was a fun-filled crazy fast moving entertaining and crowd involved show, super fun. We then headed off to Chinatown for a walking tour and then dinner at one of the local restaurants. The food was awesome and the quantity was crazy. I think many of the kids are not very adventurous eaters and there was unfortunately a lot of food left. We then headed off to Sears Tower no called The Willis tower, which if you have been there once you know what it is all about. The kids did seem to enjoy the tower even if we were only there for about an hour.Back to the hotel for swimming, hide and seek and generally running off energy. 10;30 was lights out again and everyone was very cooperative.

Friday we headed off to Navy Pier to enjoy the nice weather and relax bit before the festival. Speaking of which hit was sort of a weird event. It is a competitive festival where each orchestra is competing against  the others however there are no people in the audience, just two judges, odd.
Billy plays the violin and does a pretty good job. We  were eat the festival for about two hours and then it was off the Gino's pizza. Awesome pizza and great fun. The kids were a bit wound up on Friday night to the point where we had to close the pool early, stop hide and seek in the hallway but for the most part it was pretty easy.

Saturday was Six Flags and all that comes with it! The weather was great the place was packed however the kids were tired. We arrived at 10:30 and by 12:00 kids we're hanging out with the chaperones asking when are we going home...

We actually made it back to school early the kids cleaned up the bus and the tour was over. I have to say it was an interesting chaperone group, the Orchestra director after 26 years is retiring so this was the last hurrah so to speak.....

Willis Tower

6 Flags!

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Hot Jazz

The end of the school year is winding down and that means ... end of the year concerts.

Tonight kicked off the end of jazz band, its a voluntary before school band and Jimmy loves it. He plays drums and sax but would prefer if he only played drums.  They meet before school every Tues and Thurs and he has NO problem getting up for it.  He just wishes that they could choose their own music and (therefore) have more challenging music to play. Its a common compliant with this crew since they are all really talented and want to get better, fast.

Tonight they played 4 songs and Jimmy played drums on 2 and sax on 2 (with gum in his mouth, I have no idea how he does that but he's been doing it since 6th grade).  They sounded amazing and we can't wait for next year!!

Hot Jazz 1
Hot Jazz 2
Hott Jazz 3
Hot Jazz 4

Getting ready to go!

Happy place

Working it

On sax

The Band

The Band + Mr Bell

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Life moves pretty fast, sometimes you need to slow down - Ferris Bueller

Wow, this month  has FLOWN by ... between a mega snow storm, school, work, gymnastics, taekwondo and prep for summer football we haven't had much (any) down time.  Its crazy.

Thought I'd do a quick reflection and update...

Tom is Tom. All is good, work is fun - he taught the kids to make mini pizzas and is negotiating his summer hours. While we SHOULD (in theory) be able to leave the kids home along during the day in the summer, I'm not sure I can handle the chaos they create in the house when adults aren't around.  Jimmy won't eat unless someone makes it for him, Billy forgets to eat and Kay will make a 10 course dinner for 10 and then proceed to leave it all out to rot.  Sigh.  Not to mention there will be practices to drive to/from during the day. The best schedule would be 7-10a and then 2-5p but I'm not sure he's going to be able to pull that off....

Jimmy is gearing up for football.  He had his 1st captains practice yesterday and is signed up for 5 summer football camps (college interest camps).  U of M, South Dakota, Madison, Mankato and a regional camp.  They should be fun!  He's going to Christian Club every Monday morning, Jazz Band Tues and Thursday mornings and wants to start a Conservative Club at school. I'm trying to get him to join debate so that I get a bit of relief from the constant interest in debating with me on EVERY. SINGLE. MAJOR. POLITICAL hot-button that's out there.  Transgender, gun control, abortion, states rights, Black Lives Matter, the list goes on and on and is exhausting. Especially since he chooses to bring it up at 9:30p every night.  He has applied for a summer job at my work and will train in at the end of May. God help us!

Kay is busy with gymnastics, not only practicing but cheering on her club friends in regionals. She also was able to see the collegiate regional meet and was reinspired to pursue gymnastics in college. We've look at the list of colleges that offer gymnastics and we the good news is ... there are a LOT in our region.  U of M, Gustavus and Winona all are division 1/2 (they combine division 1 & 2 for girls gymnastics) with the U of W Stout, Eau Claire, Whitewater and LaCrosse in division 3.  I am feeling much better about her college prospects knowing that we have options outside of UCLA and Oklahoma (UCLA, Oklahoma and the U of M are the "big" 3 in college gymnastics).  We are going on a month of having more better days than bad days and I'm just counting my blessings with each good day that passes.

Billy is in full swing with taekwondo.  Nationals is in Salt Lake City over the 4th of July and there is either a camp or competition almost every weekend between now and then.  He's also got an orchestra trip to Chicago coming up this week (Wed-Sat night) and Tom got suckered into chaperoning.  They are taking both Jr Highs and all 3 grades on the trip.  3 bus loads of kids. Yikes.  Tom is a saint.

I'm busy with work and am still loving the variety.  On Tuesday I started the day with our Finance Committee board meeting to review our audit with the auditors and ended the day cleaning all the toilets since we had to let our cleaning company go and the new one hadn't started yet.  I've also been able to get on my bike this week for the 1st set of training rides. I rode 5 times!  And, while the roads are clear, the there is still  tons of ice on the lakes and the roads haven't been swept of salt or dirt yet.  I'm not complaining though as my training has been cut seriously short by the mega snow storm.  Billy and I "get' to go to Kansas City for a TKD tournament Mothers Day weekend and I have an upcoming leadership conference with nonprofit CEO/President/Executive Directors in mid May.  Then, over Memorial Day we are headed up to McGregor to a cabin with Angela and at the boys.  So, another busy month ahead!!

Here are some fun memories.... (keep in mind, Kay won't let me take her photo)

Applying for his 1st job!

1st and 3rd at the tournament that was in the middle of the huge snow storm

Entertaining the neighbor kids - he said "wow, do all kids have that much energy? they are exhausting but fun"

Pre tournament fun at the waterpark

Love these 3

Official team photos

He looks too happy to be scary

LOVE LOVE LOVE  They are 13, 12 and 10 and all the same size:)

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Kays very best days ever!

Kay is on a roll. Not only did she have an amazing vacation that included Wee Bare Bears, staying in bed all day and unlimited room service and chocolate cake ... she came home to Easter (her favorite holiday) and the prospect of getting her braces off (finally and for the second time!)

No idea why Easter is Kay's favorite. .. the bunny, the food, the treats, the candy ... I suspect is The Hunt.  She loves surprises, puzzles and searching for clues.  This year was no exception, well almost no exception. The biggest difference was that she didnt wake up until noon, then had to eat, then putz THEN...finally, at 3pm, she was ready for The Hunt.  Unfortunately mother nature didnt cooperate and it was a full indoor hunt given the snow on the ground (and more on its way). But that did stop them...they were racing around the house looking for eggs.  Tracy had 1/2 a mind to fill each egg with a take out condiment packet (ketchup, mustard, etc) instead of chocolate and jelly beans since it was also April Fools Day but .. she abstained.

They had a great hunt, loved their baskets and called Grandma Bunny to talk to her with their favorite greeting - Happy Easter Bunny!!  Jimmy even threw in a little April Fools Humor by stating - Guess what Grandma?! Big News!  Mom is pregnant - everyone laughed. (Thank GOD thats not true! Scary)

Then, Monday was back to school but even that couldn't dampen Kay's excitement, she was getting her braces off.  As you recall, she's had braces twice and hasn't exactly been following the Dr's instructions for wearing rubber bands, etc so we suspect that these braces stayed on a good 6 months longer than they needed to but ... no worries, they came off!

And, now on to bigger worries - she gets her retainer on Wednesday and need to wear it nonstop for 8 weeks. Given her inability to follow directions I wonder how many arguments this will create. AND ... scarier still ... she's old enough to take drivers ed (you have to be 14 1/2 yr old) and we have her on a wait list for early May with her friends.  If thats not scary, I dont know what is....

We love you Kay! You have an amazing zest for life, are funny, independent, strong minded and maddeningly wonderful.  Cheers to your next adventures!!

The Hunt. Kay's in her robe. At 3pm.


After - same cute smile, new clean teeth

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Spring Break - cruisin'

This year it dawned on us ... we only have 3 more years to make the kids go on vacation with us before they all start heading off to college, different schedules and their own interests, people and lives.  On top of that, Tracy was regretting that we never took a "proper" vacation when she was out of work. The kids schedules didnt cooperate and the lack of a job (& income) was a bit daunting. So, we went big this year - a 7 day cruise.

Heading into the vacation, we were excited but a bit trepidatious.  7 days, on a boat, with each other - no escape.  Would anyone get sea sick? Would there be enough to do?  Would the kids have fun? Would Kay cooperate?  We were fairly certain the boys would find ways to entertain themselves but we werent sure about Kay. She's a bit of a wild card these days, leans towards car sickness and can be crusty. On the other hand, she can be the funniest of the bunch, generous and adventurous.  We decided to roll the dice.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, Kay made it VERY clear that she didnt want to go... litanies of ... can't I bring a friend - can't you leave me at home - why would I want to spend time with you ... etc etc.

However, as we got a few days out, she started to do some online research of the boat and locations we were visiting and her litany started to sound like - they have room service?  there's snorkeling! Guys burger bar - buffets - etc etc...the excitement was starting to build...

We were cruising out of Galveston on Saturday and so flew into Houston on Friday. Our driver was Fazel and he was a gem. He's from Indosian with a wife & baby in Montreal. He and Jimmy chatted the whole drive - politics, Texas, his family, our family - Jimmy is a good conversationalist and puts his skills to use frequently (all those incessant questions as a kid are now manifesting as being an interested, engaged chatter).

We got to the hotel SUPER late (midnight) and despite a HUGE dinner at the airport (wings, burgers, nacho's, fish, etc) the kids were starving.  Tom made the trip to the front desk, bought microwave burritos and noodle bowls and we staved off the worst.

Saturday was a pure get organized and on the boat type of day.  Much like getting on a flight, its one line after another - showing ideas, tickets, signing documents, etc.  But, we made it and were able to scope the boat, eat lunch and get settled.

Our itinerary was - Day at Sea, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, Day at Sea, Day at Sea, back to Galveston.

Having a full day at Sea on the front and back end of the trip was critical. We got our necessary decompress time and used to the sway of the boat.  But, it WAS crowded - hard to find a pool chair and endless lines for food. Needless to say, the kids discovered that the room service chocolate cake was to die for as well as the fact that there was a steady stream of the show "Wee Bare Bears".  Heaven.

Our dinner mates - Mike, Julie, Missy, Val and Brian - were awesome.  They are from Plainville IL and have cruised many a time.  Brian was 18, Missy 17 and Val 13 and they had it all figured out.  It was fun to know that we were going to see them every night and compare adventures.  Theres some definite social media following happening post the trip.  Tracy even managed to embarrass the whole lot of the teens one night when the waiters/servers got a dance party started.

Every night the food was different and it was brilliant. They served portions small enough that you could try a few things without feeling stuffed (or guilty if you didnt like it). Its a great way to be adventurous and get our of your comfort zone.  The only exception? The worlds largest lasagna, seriously, it was the size of a dinner plate and basically just meat and cheese.  Not even Jimmy could finish his (and his M.O was to order 2 full salmon dinners every night).

There was also a 7pm PG comedy show each night and they were all super funny.  Jimmy also was enamored with a duet that say every country, folk and 60's song you could think of - they were absolutely amazing and every night we'd figure out where they were playing, plant ourselves and listen. I think he was surprised that Tracy knew the words to almost every song.

The boat also had movies that they showed each night, games, dance/song revues, a gym, running track, worlds slowest water slide, chess, foos ball, ping pong and hot tubs. Seriously, no lack of anything to do!

Tracy managed a work out each day and Jimmy/I also managed 4 really good weight work outs. Billy and Kay managed 1 work out plus a ton of swimming.  But, truth be told, there was also 2 days where we didnt get Kay out of bed until 6pm for dinner.  Those were her Wee Bare Bear, room service days and while she didnt want to leave the room, she was also in a pretty good mood. To each his own!

Once we hit Cozumel, we were ready for a bit of an adventure, we walked around, took in the sites and found some cool tidal pools. But soon the kids were hungry and the lure of burritos, mongolian wok and seriously killer burgers called us back to the boat.

We decided to skip Belize since you had to take a 30 min boat ride to get to the island and it was overcast.  Best idea. Ever. We had the boat to ourselves - no lines, pool chairs, empty gym - heaven!

Roatan was our "big" trip - zip lining for Tracy, Kay and Billy, snorkeling for the kids and kayaking for Tracy and I.  We saw a 45 year old turtle and it was HUGE and mellow.  Roatan was simply gorgeous and it was nice to just sit on the beach, in the sand - although it was pretty crowded.

The last 2 days on the boat seemed like time stood still (in a good way).  The kids chatted about school, friends, drivers ed, cousins, past trips, movies, politics, etc.  Kay pulled out a bunch of really stupid jokes and told them over and over at dinner until everyone had the belly laughs. It was so much fun.

Kay did have 2 sea sick days but weathered them like a trouper.  Tracy also had small bouts and now can't seem to shake the tippy feeling even though we've been off the boat for 2 days.  The boys sailed through ...

But, all good things must end and we were excited to get home to snow, Nikki and our own beds (not to mention homework, friends, Easter, etc).  The consensus on the cruise - super fun bucket list item but... probably not on future travel plans.  Too many other places to see! (Jimmy wants to go back to Korea and if he takes AP Global Studies next year, he has an opportunity to travel Europe with his class over spring break).

However, the one caveat.... They'd do a cruise again with their cousins.  They LOVE their cousins!

Photo's below....

Holiday toes

Pre boarding DQ run

Volley ball

Mini Golf

salt pool

Kay and Jim getting along

Billy playing video games in the sun

Getting ready to cool off

Kay watching dolphins from her balcony

Tracy beat Billy at mini golf but only by 1 stroke

View from boat in Belize

Billy beat Jimmy at chess and then lost to the master

Kays lie in day

Researching stupid jokes - Grandma Bunny would have been proud


Snorkling in Roatan

Kay IS out there, on a floaty with a mask

Final adjustments


Roatan from the ship 


Ping Pong - guess who won?


It can get crowded!

Waiting for dinner, Jimmy didnt pack long pants so had to where mine for 2 of the nights - not happy to have to wear dad pants

Sibling love

Every day brought new towel animals


Tidal pools in Cozumel


More exploring


The size difference!!

Too pretty

She found a small spikey sea urchin

Belize in the distance

Our boat behind the MSC



Cocktails from my favorite bar - Alchemy


Routan from the boat

A bear?


more drinks

Tracy's favorite

The dance party!

No idea what this is...

Sunset on the final night

I'm leaving on a jet plane.....